WARNEING: I'm fit for Ashes! Shane, 43, is in the shape of his life and ready to save Australia
22:48 GMT, 4 December 2012
Just when it seemed we could bid an
emotional farewell to the last of Australia's true greats with Ricky
Ponting's tearful retirement, up pops Shane Warne to flex his spinning
finger and tease us all over a possible Ashes comeback.
Warne chose the week of his latest
return to action in the Australian Big Bash Twenty20 competition with
the Melbourne Stars to say that he had 'absolutely no doubt' he could
bowl at Test level again.
The ball, it seems, is in his close
friend Michael Clarke's court and fizzing like a classic Warne
leg-break. Can he really be serious
Ashes to Ashes! Warne is willing to come out of retirement to face England once again
Final Warne-ing: Would Shane's other half put a block on him playing England again
Well, perhaps the greatest bowler
of them all, and almost as great a showman, has talked of comebacks
before but there has always been more than a hint of publicity stunt
Now, in the aftermath of Australia's crushing defeat by South
Africa in Perth, he again chose to provide a glimmer of hope to a
slightly desperate nation.
If the Australian captain gives him a call,
Warne insists he will respond. 'If your best friend says, “Mate, I want
you to seriously consider making a commitment to Australian cricket by
coming out of retirement”, that's a different scenario,' said Warne.
'Especially with back-to-back Ashes series coming up next year. It could
be a 12-month thing where you take three spinners with you and say,
“Righto, work with these spinners and see how you go”. That's a
different kettle of fish.'
Nemesis: Warne took great delight in bowling England over time and again
Ball of the century: Mike Gatting was bowled all ends up in 1993
So is this what you might call a
'come-and-get-me plea' 'I'm definitely not asking for Michael Clarke to
come out and say that,' conceded Warne.
'You asked me if I felt I could
still play international cricket, if I wanted to just turn up, do my
bowling and if the first Test was in three weeks, do you think I could
'I'd have no hesitation in saying yes. And I think I'd do pretty
It does, of course, feel like madness. Warne, after all, is 43
and has not played Test cricket for almost six years.
He may be able to
turn his arm over in a domestic Twenty20 league but could he really
return to what remains the biggest battle in world cricket
It is not as
if he needs to. Warne is busy and in successful postretirement and,
since he met Elizabeth Hurley, has found contentment in what has often
been a rocky personal life.
Surely he would not risk his considerable
reputation by putting his neck on the line again
And yet. Warne is
probably in the best physical shape of his life, has never been close to
being replaced in the Australian team and could bowl off a couple of
paces and resume his old position at slip, as long as his eyes haven't
gone, without too much fuss.
It couldn't happen, could it 'From purely a bowling perspective I don't think my form would be a concern,'
'It's just the time and actually making a commitment again.
'My kids are turning 16, 14 and 12 next year and we're juggling two
continents with my work commitments and Elizabeth's.
'There's travel, sponsors, businesses, so much stuff that I'd have to put
on hold to come back to international cricket. That's the reason I
haven't said for a while that I'm going to make a comeback.'
don't spoil it. His comments, made in Adelaide, have guaranteed
publicity so we might as well dream of what it might be like.
Shane's world: Warne retired in 2007 and soon took up commentary duties
thought of Warne in another Ashes series is like a huge dollop of
stardust that will be missing in the contests in England and the return
in Australia as a result of Ponting's absence.
'For me it's not a
question of whether I could do it,' said Warne. 'I have no doubt that if
I wanted to commit I could do it.
'I watched the Perth Test and I felt
like jumping off the couch and grabbing the ball. I really felt for
Michael Clarke from a captaincy point of view.'
Nathan Lyon, the latest Australian spinner faced with the thankless task of stepping into
Warne's shoes, should look away now.
'When you've got international
bowlers bowling one or two full tosses and half-volleys an over I felt
for Pup (Clarke), I really did. I think I'm bowling as well as I have
for a long time. The best since I retired from international cricket. My
body's fresh and strong and fit. My mind's fresh from it all and off
the field I'm very happy, content and looking forward to playing.'
go on Pup, give him a call. You know you want to. We all certainly want
you to. That really would light up the Ashes.
Andrew Flintoff has
improved his fitness levels so much in his boxing training that he may
play Twenty20 cricket again, says his father, Colin.
The only people cheering Warne's return would be England's batsmen
The only surprise about Shane Warne's latest dalliance with the idea of unretiring and playing Test cricket once more is that it's been a while since he's aired the possibility.
Barely a week went by during the 2010-11 Ashes when Warne wasn't asked whether he fancied helping out his struggling former team-mates. And, being a straight-talking kind of guy – and one with an eye for a PR stunt – he was damned if he was going to dismiss the prospect without giving it at least some room to breathe.
Now, he's done it again, saying he has 'absolutely no doubt' he could hack it at Test level and leaving a nation to dream of the good old days, when the thought of Australia failing to take six South African wickets in an entire day to win a match – as Michael Clarke's team contrived to do recently in Adelaide – would scarcely have occurred.
No one can question Warne's self-belief. It was part of the package that made him the most compelling spin bowler in the history of the game. His capacity to wring so many front-foot lbws out of impressionable umpires was a wonder to behold.
His aura might still earn him the odd wicket, and he could doubtless summon up the old magic to produce the occasional rip-snorter. Hell, it would be fun to watch.
But Test cricket is a gruelling business. And in a shade over six months next year spilling over into 2014, Australia will play ten straight matches against England, away and home. Warne will turn 44 between the two series. A return to Test cricket Really
If the headlines ever descended from the realms of Cloud Cuckoo Land, the only people cheering once the initial excitement had worn off would be England's batsmen.
Sportsmail cricketer writer and editor of Wisden – LAWRENCE BOOTH
VIDEO: Ball of the century which heralded Warne's arrival on Ashes scene…